Re: [OPE] peanut butter value-form theory

From: Alejandro Agafonow <>
Date: Thu Apr 02 2009 - 16:09:40 EDT

If ‘labor-commanded’ has a meaning, it only could be that of pointing out the failure in realising ‘value’ when the crackers are rejected by consumers. And the amount of labor-commanded should be counted to measure the degree of devaluation of labor-values due to the failure of dodgy crackers to satisfy concrete preferences –an original Engelian analysis that most Marxists have forgotten.   The fact that “what can be subjectively preferred and consumed by the community is clearly constrained by the total labor force” doesn’t lead to the conclusion that ‘value’ lies in the causal powers of labor. To understand what 'value' is one have to answer what makes the objective cost structure of the economy change. What is the primary force that cause a disruption in the objective cost structure?   Before giving my answer –which you might guess– I would like to know if you think Ian that labor-values cause these disruptions.   Regards,A. Agafonow ________________________________ De: Ian Wright <> Para: Outline on Political Economy mailing list <> Enviado: miércoles, 1 de abril, 2009 22:16:23 Asunto: Re: [OPE] peanut butter value-form theory > Ian W., your particular position concerning LTV seems to be limited to the > framework of Das Kapital. i.e. that there is such a thing like the > gravitational force of labor which allegedly eliminates the difference > between the labor content of a commodity and its price turning the > price/labor value ratio equal to unity. Yes, I believe that economic phenomena are ultimately governed by the law of value. But it must be stressed: this conception is not at all limited to Das Kapital, but is very much embedded in classical political economy, for those willing to see. > This assumption leads you to think that labor itself does confer value. But > then a problem arises with ‘dodgy crackers’ which contain labor but can’t be > valuable (I would like to hear your reflection on this). The crackers have a labor-value, since labor is required to produce them. But since no-one will buy them they cannot command any labor in exchange. As I have mentioned to you before, and as clearly explained by Rubin, such mismatches between labor-embodied and labor-commanded are an essential moment of the law of value. If the producer of crackers can't sell their goods they need to start doing something else quick. Simplifying, this is the mechanism by which the law of value allocates the total labor of society to meet social demand. Cracker produces start doing something useful for others. > I don’t understand your reluctance to accept this. It would be the first > step in order to avoid the problem. You just have to take a small step ahead > recognizing that value ultimately depends on subjective preferences held by > consumers. But here you are completely confused, and is why I included the link to Rubin's chapter where he directly addresses this issue. Your confusions are not new; they are very old. Of course there are causal relations between social demand and labor-values. For example, high demand can generate high profits leading to changes in the scale of production and hence changes in the objective conditions of production. But this does not mean that labor value "ultimately depends on subjective preferences" since what can be subjectively preferred and consumed by the community is clearly constrained by the total labor force and its causal powers, i.e. labor-values. Labor-values do not depend on the subjective preferences of consumers at all. No matter how much we subjectively would like to wish away the objective cost structure of the economy we cannot: planes cost more than pencils for a reason entirely independent of our subjective preferences. > That’s ok if you don’t want to follow this way, but then you have to > undertake a huge revision of LTV which necessarily will take you away from > your formal models. They are built upon rotten bases. You need to evolve > toward an institutional approach. Yes, I know that you think Marx's theory of value is a "rotten base". But to engage in such a critique you first need to understand the object of your attack. You are not demonstrating that, trust me. Best wishes, -Ian. _______________________________________________ ope mailing list

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